Well, my face lit up when I saw the SOE Worlds magazine (you can read my look at the preview issue here) in my mail box. Mostly out of malevolent glee I must admit - as much as I love playing EQII it's fun to poke holes in SOE's marketing attempts.
I sat down with a bunch of yellow stickies ready to notate the humorous or badly written items so I could comment on then. But then, something extraordinary happened. After around page 10 or so, my yellow stickies were forgotten. SOE was surprising me. This magazine is actually good. Yes, good.
Now, I'm not saying you should rush out and sign up for Station Pass. But if you get it for free it's worth reading and an enjoyable way to pass a half hour. There were no great revelations or gameplay insights (although I did quote the useful example of the guild status/patron formula to someone later that night in-game). But, it is an enjoyable read.
The article on the expansion was quite intriguing and caused me to look forward to it even more. The zones sound fun, the lore is good and the graphics look nice. One thing that I question is that they are really emphasizing factions in this expansion (there are different factions in the city of Maj'Dul - merchants, warriors, thieves and even, gasp, lawyers). I hope they implement this better than in the regular game because faction standing has had zero impact on my character through 48 levels. I'm not saying it won't work in the expansion, I just hope it has a bigger factor on gameplay.
The PvP section focuses solely on the Pokemon aspect (training arena creatures to fight for you). It actually sounds quite entertaining - you can trade characters you've leveled up thus making some extra gold as an "arena trainer." However, if you read this article you might think that you can only fight in the arena with these creatures and not as yourself. However, that's not true: "You can choose to fight as yourself or take on the form of one of many creatures and fight as it would. Better yet, if you are challenged by a player who is a higher level than you, just take the form of a creature that matches your challenger's level and now you've got a fair fight.... In addition to the vast selection of monsters to choose from, there will be numerous scenarios for players to take part in, such as standard one-on-one competition, massive 'Carnage' free-for-all battles, and 'Relic Wars', just to name a few." That quote is from a Sony newsletter (sorry some links are down). Thanks to Torran for that quote which I missed.
I'm not going to cover every article but here's a quick rundown. The article on guild status is helpful as I mentioned earlier. The World's Eye View mentions guilds and players by name which is nice for those who enjoy a little fame. The scrying stones article is quite informative (I didn't realize different locations in the same zone could yield a better chance of good results) even if it is largely ignored in-game (hint: have even a slight chance of scrying for really nice rare items and a lot more players will do it). The lore article about Hasten Bootstrutter is kind of fun and well written. The Frogloks article is also informative in terms of lore (sounds like the quest to unlock them centers around CT). The best of the non-EQII articles is actually the one on SOE's PSP game, Untold Legends. It gives a lot of tips and information regarding side quests. Even the article with recipes for real life food was basic but okay.
Like I said, a surprisingly good job. But, I still have some nitpicks that I thought were amusing:
The fact that they printed a letter questioning their objectivity due to the fact that they are an "official" magazine bothers me. The response says that they are here "without a gag order" and have not yet "wanted to print something we weren't allowed to talk about." When I see an article bashing the SWG combat changes or the Everquest price raise then I'll believe it. I understand this is an official SOE magazine and I have no problem with that. But don't try to pretend you are hard-hitting journalists. Do your jobs without crowing about your objectivity.
The picture of FanFaire is scary and uninviting. Seriously, they could have used a much more appealing shot there.
The article on the Everquest book, "Rogue's Hour," troubles me because they interview R.A. Salvatore, who "presents" the book rather than the actual author. Moreover, as I've stated before, it has really bad reviews on Amazon.
This quote under the chart which shows the percentage of players who play each race (yeah, Dark Elves rule - shocker) is pretty funny: "For the mathematicians out there, the list adds up to 102% due to rounding error, not because we can't add." Guys, there are ways to incorporate rounding error into charts like this (try decimals for one) and there are also better way to phrase your inability to do so.
I could do without Brenlo's defense of the EQ server mergers.
Oh, and if you are a PlanetSide subscriber you only get one article. What's worse, the article covers a cool sounding PvE concept that did not make it into the game. Wow, you want to torture the PlanetSide subscribers some more? You give them one article and it's about things they can't have.
But, these are just nitpicks. All in all a worthy effort with above average writing. Oh, one more thing. Allakhazam is featured in the fansite spotlight section. A worthy choice, they've been around a while and do good work, even if their quest database for EQII doesn't measure up to some other more commercial sites. But just a suggestion, why not feature a site that has a ton of humorous and insightful comment and is completely without ads or membership fees. Just off the top of my head, hmmm, I don't know - here's a suggestion.